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>The Mystery of the Mary Celeste<

On December 4th 1892, 400 miles west of the Azores, the captain of a Gibraltar-bound ship, the Dei Gratia, hailed a vessel which appeared to be sailing somewhat unsteadily. What the captain and his mate discovered aboard the brigantine Mary Celeste later that afternoon has fuelled intense speculation ever since.
The ship was eerily deserted, and there was no obvious sign of a struggle. All money and valuables were still locked away in the safe, clothing and personal possessions seemed to be untouched, and even the dishes had been put away after the last meal. Later findings established that the Mary Celeste, which had left New York bound for Genoa, was in fact sailing westwards, some 400 miles from its original course. Whatever could have happened to the captain and his nine crew?
Since the mystery first caught the public's imagination, the men's disappearance has been blamed on anything from mutiny to the activities of an irate sea monster. Researchers have shown, however, that the true facts of the case quickly became obscured - first by an incompetent offical investigation, and then by the novelist Arthur Conan Dayle's fictional explanation; his fantastic account of the story published under the title the Marie Celeste, was later accepted as fact by many writers.
What seems certain is that the crew left the ship of their own accord, since a longboat was found to be missing along with the captain's instruments and charts. Was their sudden departure the results of hitting some kind of oceanic whirlpool as one recent investigator has tried to prove? It seems unlikely that the ocean will ever give up one of its most famous and best-kept secrets.


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